I met Carol Tart at the opening of the Sanders campaign’s South Philadelphia office about a month before the primary. In a room filled with young people ornamented with tattoos and beards, and a handful of older white radicals, Tart, a striking woman wearing a stylish hat, was easy to spot. For one thing, she was the only African-American woman I could see. And no one was talking to her. So I went over and asked what had brought her to the event.
“If you want an honest answer, I came to see how many other black people would be here,” she said. “Now I understand why Bernie has had a hard time getting people to come over to his side. I live five blocks from here—and I’m very politically involved. I’m heartbroken.”
Pennsylvania was always going to be a tough state for Sanders. In 2008, when over 432,000 Democrats turned out in Philadelphia alone, Barack Obama got 65 percent of their votes. He still lost the state by 220,000 votes—giving Hillary Clinton, who had been questioning her opponent’s electability and attacking him as an elitist for calling some Americans “bitter,” a rationale for carrying on her campaign until the convention even as she struggled to persuade superdelegates to remain neutral and let the contest play out in May and June. Back in 2008 Hillary Clinton still owned a share in the family’s cottage on Lake Winola, near Scranton—the town where her father, Hugh Rodham, was raised. Both he and her younger brother, Hughie Rodham, played football for Penn State.
So one way to look at what happened yesterday is that Pennsylvania was always Clinton’s to lose—and that she didn’t lose it. Instead, she methodically rounded up almost every Democratic elected official in the state—from Senator Bob Casey and Governor Tom Wolf (and former governor Ed Rendell) to the mayors of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia (along with former Philly mayor Michael Nutter, who also backed Clinton in 2008). The only prominent Democrat in the Sanders corner was John Fetterman, the mayor of Braddock—whose own campaign to win the nomination to take on the state’s Republican senator, Pat Toomey, fell short yesterday with just 20 percent of the vote as Katie McGinty rode a presidential endorsement and heavy backing from Emily’s List to victory.
This was never a fair fight. Philadelphia has been a machine town, and Pennsylvania a machine state, since a young reporter named Lincoln Steffens made a name for himself exposing “the shame of the cities”—in 1904! And as both the Clinton and McGinty wins demonstrate, it remains a state where the machine still delivers. Though turnout in Philadelphia was 100,000 lower than in 2008, this time Clinton won 62.6 per cent.